Catholic in Yanchep

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Fifth Sunday of Easter | The glory of God is …

Bamberg Apocalypse 55r New Jerusalem

The New Jerusalem, Bamberg Apocalypse, 11th century, Folio 55, MS A.II.42, Bamberg State Library, commissioned by Otto III.

Today’s Gospel reading may at first sight seem a bit repetitive.  But remember, John has a purpose in everything he writes.  He tells us he could have written a whole lot more, but he has selected what he has, ‘so that we might believe’ (John 20:31)

The words he keeps repeating are ‘glorify’ (ἐδοξάσθη) and ‘love’ (ἀγάπη).

Why does Jesus say ‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified?’ What has just happened?  Judas has just received the Eucharist and slipped out of the room to deliver Christ to his enemies! (verse 27: At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him).

It seems as if John has made a typographical error.  Didn’t he mean ‘Now has the Son of Man been betrayed?’  But no, John wants us to understand that the Glory of Christ is in his willingness to undergo betrayal by a close friend, with all that comes afterwards.

The next few lines read like a poem on the Trinity.  Everything that affects the Son, affects the Father.  Everything of the Father reflects back to the Son.  It’s almost mathematical in its expression.  Let a = Son and b = Father.  x = glorification.  If a has property x, then b has property x.  If b has property x, then a has property x, or to put it in the way John puts it:

Now has the Son of Man been glorified,

and in him God has been glorified.

If God has been glorified in him,

God will in turn glorify him in himself,

and will glorify him very soon.

Jesus turns the focus from this great act of betrayal by Judas into God’s great act of self-giving.  Self-giving is God’s glory.

Jesus is adding a whole new dimension to glory, usually understood as God’s holiness, majesty and power.  How could it be otherwise?  If God were selfish, he would not be glorious.  If God wanted us to love him merely because of his overwhelming power as Creator, that would not constitute greatness.  But a God who loves to the point of allowing himself to experience the most excruciatingly egregious behaviour of his creatures, and giving up everything he has by right, truly deserves our praise and respect.

In this passage the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit are all present.  Where is the Holy Spirit?  He’s not actually mentioned.  But we know the Holy Spirit appears as a Cloud of Glory (the Shekinah cloud) elsewhere in Scripture.   And here John’s crescendo of glorification words describes what amounts to a verbal Cloud of Glory around the Father and the Son: what is this if not the Holy Spirit, the love between the Father and the Son?

Today’s readings (Australia):

Word format: Year C Easter 5th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C Easter 5th Sunday 2016


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5th Sunday of Easter, Year B | I am the vine, you are the branches

Christ the True Vine, icon, 16th century, Лоза Истинная (Виноградная лоза), Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens.

Christ the True Vine, icon, 16th century, Лоза Истинная (Виноградная лоза), Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens.

Today’s Readings:

Word format: Year B Easter 5th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B Easter 5th Sunday 2015

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”  What does this mean for our relationship with Christ, the incarnate God?

Jesus is not simply an inspiring teacher to whom we listen. He is a force in which we participate, a body in which we are cells and molecules, a river in which we swim.  (Fr Robert Barron)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says

Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.

This means we have to immerse ourselves in his Word, and constantly invite the Holy Spirit to invade our minds with His thoughts.  If we do this, suddenly we find that the whole orientation of our life changes.  We start to desire what God desires as our minds become moulded and grafted onto God’s.  We want to fit in with his Divine Plan, instead of dictating to him what we think his Divine Plan ought to be.

Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away —
he withers; these branches are collected
and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.

Our culture today would interpret the above words of Jesus as being ‘judgmental’ and not at all ‘inclusive’.   How can God create us, just to throw us away?  God in fact doesn’t want to throw us away.  That is why he is asking us to listen to him, to remain in him, because if we in our arrogance, ignorance or laziness don’t even take time to do those things, we will end up throwing ourselves away.  Everything we do is a choice – closer to him or further away from him.  Here’s Fr Barron again, in a 2009 article titled ‘What the Hell‘:

Now rocks, trees, planets, animals, and stars respond to the divine love just by being what they are. But God made human beings in his own image and likeness, which is to say, he endowed them with mind and will and thereby invited them to respond to his love, not simply by the goodness of their being but by the integrity of their freedom. He wanted them to have the opportunity to participate personally in the love that he is. But this freedom carried with it, necessarily, a shadow, namely, the possibility of abuse. We who have been made in God’s image, can decide not to live in accord with that image; we who have been invited to answer God’s love with our love can answer it instead with resistance. To stand athwart the divine love, to run counter to the image of God within us, to turn away from the sun that shines on us whether we like it or not, is to suffer. It is like a furnace; it is a kind of torture; it is to be in a place of tears and the gnashing of teeth. I’m purposely using imagery for Hell here, because the definitive state of this resistance to God, the final No to God from the depths of one’s being, is precisely what the church means by Hell. And perhaps now we can begin to see why this doctrine hasn’t a thing to do with God “sending” anyone to a terrible place or “condemning” anyone to an eternal prison. As C.S. Lewis put it, “the door to Hell is always locked from the inside,” for it is always our perverse freedom, and not the divine choice, that locks us away from God. Lewis offered another extremely helpful point of clarification when he said that the love of God lights up the fires of Hell. He meant that the suffering of Hell is caused by the very same power that produces the delight of Heaven, namely, the love that God simply is. The difference between Heaven and Hell is a function of our freedom: in the first case, it opens itself to God, and in the second case, it turns away from God. A homey image might help. There are two people at the same party. One is caught up in the joy, rhythm, music, and laughter of the gathering, and he’s having the time of his life; the other, sunk in moody self-regard, resenting the joy of those around him, sulks in irritation, tortured by the very exuberance of the party itself.

Of course, if we follow God only because we are frightened by threats of Hell, our faith is pretty weak.  Why is it that we’re so bad at describing the joy of the abundant living we receive from God?  This is something that Christians need to become better at – and perhaps we should spend more of our time describing the joyful answers to prayer that we receive, the Evangelii Gaudium and the ecstasy of a life of intense prayer.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will and you shall get it.

When a soul aligned with Him in obedience and love asks for a favour, God will satisfy the deepest longings his or her heart.  What are your hearts deepest longings, and do they fit in with God’s Word?

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Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B | Attuning Ourselves to the Divine Will

Adoration of the Trinity (Landauer Altarpiece), Albrecht Dürer, 1511, oil on poplar panel, Kunst-historisches Museum, Vienna.

Adoration of the Trinity (Landauer Altarpiece), Albrecht Dürer, 1511, oil on poplar panel, Kunst-historisches Museum, Vienna.

In one of my posts on Facebook last week, a comment was made that our religion was ‘repressive’ (referring to my support for traditional marriage).  By that, the speaker meant ‘how dare you tell other people how to behave’!  (The people who say these sorts of things are usually, by the way, advocates of free speech.)  Actually, the Church doesn’t tell ‘other people’ how to behave.  It tells its members how to behave, and it is the job of these members (the faithful) to advocate for best practice in the public square, for the good of society.  It is also the job of the faithful to bring up their children to follow the good, the true and the beautiful and to repress (yes, repress – or suppress, if you want to be less Freudian) its baser desires: selfishness, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, disobedience, pride, lust, envy, and so on.

In today’s Readings from Hebrews and the Gospel of John, we see Jesus wrestling with the natural desire not to die (i.e. repressing this desire), versus obedience to the Divine plan:

During his life on earth, Christ offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation. (Heb 5:7-9)

and again in today’s Gospel:

‘Now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say:
Father, save me from this hour?
But it was for this very reason
that I have come to this hour.
Father, glorify your name!’ (Jn 12:27-28)

In Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2, Pope Benedict discusses the troubled soul of Jesus:

The great Byzantine theologian Maximus the Confessor (d. 662) formulated an answer to this question [on the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and divinity] by struggling to understand Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Maximus is first and foremost a determined opponent of monotheletism: Jesus’ human nature is not amputated through union with the Logos; it remains complete. And the will is part of human nature. This irreducible duality of human and divine willing in Jesus must not, however, be understood to imply the schizophrenia of a dual personality. Nature and person must be seen in the mode of existence proper to each. In other words: in Jesus the “natural will” of the human nature is present, but there is only one “personal will”, which draws the “natural will” into itself. And this is possible without annihilating the specifically human element, because the human will, as created by God, is ordered to the divine will. In becoming attuned to the divine will, it experiences its fulfillment, not its annihilation. Maximus says in this regard that the human will, by virtue of creation, tends toward synergy (working together) with the divine will, but that through sin, opposition takes the place of synergy: man, whose will attains fulfillment through becoming attuned to God’s will, now has the sense that his freedom is compromised by God’s will. He regards consenting to God’s will, not as his opportunity to become fully himself, but as a threat to his freedom against which he rebels.

The drama of the Mount of Olives lies in the fact that Jesus draws man’s natural will away from opposition and back toward synergy, and in so doing he restores man’s true greatness. In Jesus’ natural human will, the sum total of human nature’s resistance to God is, as it were, present within Jesus himself. The obstinacy of us all, the whole of our opposition to God is present, and in his struggle, Jesus elevates our recalcitrant nature to become its real self.

The question for each of us is: do we experience God as a threat to our freedom, or do we desire God so much that we happily allow him to use our freedom for his purposes, and in so doing, achieve true self-fulfilment?

Mass readings for today …
Word format: Year B Lent 5th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B Lent 5th Sunday 2015

Other resources:

  1. Listen to Fr Barron’s homily for today.
  2. Scripture study for this weekend.